What should be the final authority for your belief and practice? Many different answers have been proposed for this question. To some it is the opinions of learned men; to others it is the conclusions of science, or the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils; to yet others it is simply the voice of the majority. But there is a more satisfactory answer than any of these.
The prophecies in Revelation 13 and 14 are very clear that in the very last days of this earth’s history there is going to be worldwide religious legislation. In Revelation 13:15–17 we read the following: “He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” [Emphasis supplied.]
In the previous verses it is predicted that the earth will be deceived by this power and that it will pass legislation regulating how worship is to be conducted, and all who refuse to worship according to these laws will be prohibited to buy or sell. Eventually, a death decree will be added to this law.
While studying the Bible we find over and over again that God never forces the will or the conscience. Notice what the Lord says to the inhabitants of this world in the very last chapter of the Bible: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17.
Salvation is offered in the Bible as a free gift, but it is only to those who want it, to those who are willing to comply with the conditions. The conditions are mentioned right in this very same chapter. In Revelation 22:14, 15 it says, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral [those who break the seventh commandment], and murderers [those who break the sixth commandment], and idolaters [those who break the second commandment], and whoever loves and practices a lie [those who break the ninth commandment].”
At the end, it will be the commandment keepers on the inside of the Holy City, and those who break the commandments will be on the outside. It has been recorded very simply, very plainly and very clearly in the book of Revelation, so even a child can understand. God never forces a man’s will or his conscience. He gives an invitation to all to be subjects of His government and to be loyal to the government of heaven.
Satan, on the other hand, constantly resorts to deception. He is called, all through the Bible, the deceiver. He deceived our first parents and is repeatedly called a deceiver and a liar. Jesus called him the father of lies! If Satan fails in his attempt to deceive or seduce, his next step is to compel by cruelty. And that is exactly what we read in Revelation 13:15–17. Eventually, laws will be made to put to death any who refuse to worship in accordance with the laws.
At first, those who are faithful to God will not be able to buy or sell. How will these people feed their families? How will they have clothes, food, shelter, transportation, or anything else if they are unable to buy or sell? If that law fails to make them worship the beast, eventually the death decree will be established, as it says in verse 15. Through fear or force, Satan endeavors to rule a person’s conscience and to secure homage to himself. To accomplish this he has studied the past and he has worked over and over again through both religious and secular authorities. We believe, from reading Revelation 13, that he will do exactly the same in the future as he has done in the past and will move upon religious and secular authorities to make and enforce human laws that are in defiance of the law of God.
We know that this religious legislation in Revelation 13 is in defiance of the law of God because it enforces the mark of the beast, the worship of the image of the beast. In Revelation 14:9–11 we read, “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’ ”
Liberty of conscience has been bought at a high cost, a sacrifice that you and I cannot comprehend. The people of the United States of America have liberty of conscience as a result of people who fled from persecution in Europe and other places and said, “We are going to have a government where people have civil and religious liberty.” But, we have political corruption in our world today, even in our own country. This political corruption is destroying the love of justice and the regard for truth so that people are to the place where they want security more than they want freedom.
We are going to see the prophet’s words exemplified in the soon coming conflict that is predicted in Revelation 13 and 14. “The dragon [the devil] was enraged with the woman [a symbol of the church in Bible prophecy], and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Then I stood on the sand of the sea.” Revelation 12:17; 13:1. In other words, he had almost all of the world’s population on his side.
What are you going to do in such a time as that? Are you going to be deceived along with the majority, or are you going to read the word of God and say, “I am going to be obedient to the law of God, and I am going to live in harmony with that law”? Do you remember what Jesus said to the devil? He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’ ” Matthew 4:4.
After Jesus had fasted for 40 days in the wilderness and was literally starving to death, He held to the position that He would not go contrary to the word of God, not even to provide food for Himself, one of the most basic necessities of life.
How is it with you? What is your position on the word of God and the law of God? Are you loyal to the commandments of God and to the government of God? Or will you be deceived by the miracles worked through people receiving manifestations of spirits—spiritualism? There is only one class of people who will stand and not be deceived by the final deceptions that will take the world captive, and they are pointed out in the book of Isaiah. “To the law and to the testimony [the testimony of the prophets]: If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20.
This is the final authority and test to know whom to believe and what to practice to be on God’s side of the great controversy. It is not whether you go along with miracles or religious legislation or anything like that. The question and/or test that will provide security in the final conflict between truth and error is the word of God—the law of God. Test the spirits to see if they are in harmony with God’s law. That is the question Isaiah asks. Is it in harmony with God’s law and is it in harmony with the Bible, the testimony of God’s prophets? If it is not in harmony with God’s law as found in Exodus 20:3–17, then there is no light in it and it is not on God’s side.
God’s word is a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). If there is no light, then the spirit is an evil one, a fallen spirit, one of the devil’s angels. Any miracle done or command made not according to the Word cannot be trusted, because the devil is a liar and a deceiver. His policy has been deception from the first and will continue to be to the last. The only protection and safeguard against the influence of false teachers or the delusive power of spirits of darkness, according to Isaiah 8:20, are the Scriptures. Only an intelligent knowledge of the word of God, the Scriptures, will provide a safeguard against deception and enable you to evaluate the miracles, the teachings, and recognize the devices the devil uses to deceive the world.
The devil knows very well that the Bible shows him for who he is. For this reason he has devised many distractions to keep God’s people from gaining a knowledge from God’s word. Every possible device has been invented to keep men and women occupied, entranced and busy, so they do not obtain that crucial knowledge. The devil knows that the plain utterances of the Bible reveal his deceptions. At every revival of God’s work, the prince of evil is aroused to more intense activity, and right now he is putting forth his utmost efforts for a final struggle against Christ and His followers, because he knows his time is about to run out.
“The last great delusion is soon to open before us. Antichrist is to perform his marvelous works in our sight. So closely will the counterfeit resemble the true that it will be impossible to distinguish between them except by the Holy Scriptures.” Darkness Before Dawn, 36.
It is only through the Holy Scriptures that a person will be able to tell the difference between what is true and what is false. The counterfeit will appear so much like the true that most of the people in this world will think they are experiencing the most wonderful revival and reformation that has ever been, but they will be deceived.
Those who endeavor to keep all the commandments of God will be opposed and derided. Every testimony, every miracle needs to be tested by the testimony of the Scriptures. It will only be possible to stand in a time like this if you are standing in the power of God. In order to endure this deceptive trial that is fast approaching, an understanding of the will of God as revealed in His word is needed. To honor God is to understand what the Bible says about His character, His government, His purposes, and then choose to act in accordance with that government, with that character, with those purposes.
Only those who have filled their minds with Bible truth will be able to stand firm through that great deceptive time. I challenge you to study your Bible and Spirit of Prophecy today. Find out what the Bible says. “Be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble.” II Peter 1:10.
To every soul, to every person there is going to be asked a close, searching, test question. The test question is simply, “Am I going to obey the laws of God as revealed in His word, or am I going to obey the laws of men when they contradict the law of God?”
The decisive hour is near. Are your feet planted on the unchangeable word of God? Are you prepared to stand in defense of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus? The third angel’s message closes telling of the people who go through this time of test and trial and come out victorious. It says, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12.
John the Revelator has pointed out a time of worldwide lawlessness for which God will judge the world and send the sinners to destruction. The Bible is very clear in both the Old and New Testaments that this world is going to be destroyed at the coming of Christ. The mass of world population will be caught in deliberate violation and disobedience to the law of God just as it was before the flood. The people who do not receive the mark of the beast and do not worship his image are described as people who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12). Are you going to be in that number?
Several times in the gospels it is recorded that Jesus told His disciples what would happen to Him when He went to Jerusalem. He said, “We are going to Jerusalem, and I am going to be betrayed by the chief priests and scribes. They are going to give Me to the Gentiles—to the Roman government, to mock and scourge, and I am going to be crucified, and then on the third day, I am going to rise again” (Matthew 16:21; 20:19).
The Bible says that when He told the disciples this, they were exceedingly sorry (Matthew 17:23). In fact, they were so sorry about it that they could not accept it. They just could not believe it. Many people today believe that the whole world is going to be converted, but this is not taught in the Bible. In fact, it says just the opposite.
The world is going to be converted to worship antichrist. They will believe that they are worshiping Christ, but it is not the real One. The disciples were deluded by the teachings of popular theology in their time. They thought Jesus was going to give temporal dominion to the children of Israel and give victory over the Roman government. They could not tolerate the thought that He was going to die an ignominious death, but when the time came, exactly what Jesus predicted happened. The words that they needed to remember were somehow banished from their minds, and when the time of trial came, it found them unprepared. The death of Jesus as fully destroyed their hopes as if He had not forewarned them of what was going to happen. In the same way, in the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation, the future of our world and what is going to happen just before the end of the world is opened up to us just as plainly as what Jesus told His disciples was going to happen to Him.
But, these events connected with the close of probation and the important truths concerning the time of trouble that is coming upon this world, even though they are clearly presented in the Bible, are misunderstood. There are multitudes of people in the world today that have no more understanding of these things than if they were not even recorded in Bible prophecy. And Satan is watching to catch away the truth, to catch away every impression that would make you wise unto salvation so that the time of trouble will find you unready.
Have you ever thought about the fact that when God sends to men warnings that are so important that they are represented in symbolic form as being presented by angels flying in the midst of heaven, as you see in Revelation 14:6–12, that God requires every person who has reason, to pay attention to what He is trying to warn us about? The fearful judgments that are pronounced in the Three Angels’ Messages against the worship of the beast and his image, against Babylon, should lead every Christian to a diligent study of the Scriptures of the prophecy, to learn what this mark is, what this image is, and how to avoid receiving it.
But the masses of the people turn away their ears from hearing the truth. They are turned to fables. The apostle Paul predicted that this would happen. Looking down to the last days, he wrote, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” II Timothy 4:3, 4. Paul predicted that would happen in the future. That has happened. The multitudes today do not want Bible truth, because it interferes with the desires of their sinful, world-loving hearts. Satan provides them the deceptions that they love, so they can have an easy religion, and they can go to heaven sitting down, as it is said.
Would you like to be one of God’s people, one of His children in these last days? God is looking for a people on the earth who will maintain the Bible and the Bible only as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men are not good enough, because they are still men. The deductions of science are not good enough. The deductions of science have been proved false over and over again in the past. Much of what we believe, much of our deductions, much of our conclusions will be proved false in the future. That is not good enough for a final authority, especially on religious things.
What about the creeds and the decisions of ecclesiastical councils? These are numerous and discordant as are the churches that they represent. How about the voice of the majority? A study of religious history reveals what it was like in the days of Jesus. The majority has been wrong over and over again; in fact, almost every time, because the devil is a deceiver and he deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9).
What should be the final authority as evidence for or against any point of religious faith?
Before accepting any doctrine or teaching, the question you need to ask is: “Is there a plain ‘Thus says the Lord,’ in support of this doctrine or teaching?” That is not too hard of a question to require. Paul was teaching the truth to people who did not know a lot about it and commended them, saying, “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11. The apostle Paul preached the gospel to people, and they decided to check him out.
They did not just accept it because Paul said it, because Paul was a human being. These people in Berea said, “We are going to find out if what the apostle Paul is teaching is really true. We are going to check the Bible.” So they started searching the Scriptures every day to find out if what the apostle Paul taught about the Messiah was really true. For doing that, the apostle Paul commended them. God is going to have a people in the last days who maintain the Bible and the Bible only as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms.
Before accepting any doctrine, precept, or teaching, we should demand a plain “Thus says the Lord” in its support. If the Lord does not say so, what confidence can you have? Even the apostle Paul commended the people who checked him out to see, “Is this really what the word of God says?” Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31, 32. In other words, Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, then, that is what proves you are My disciples, and the result will be that you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”
What side of the great controversy are you going to be on as we approach the end of the world?
(Bible verses are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.